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The final week of Michaelmas term is always a wonderful time in Pre-Prep filled with special assemblies, parties, Christmas lunches, carol singing, final rehearsals and preparations for the Nativity and Christmas crafts which are all carried along in the biggest bubble of excitement that grows a little more each day. As much as I enjoy all of the festive fun and feel privileged to be able to capture all of the magic of Christmas through the eyes of children each year, my favourite moment is sharing a story about a Christmas promise I made when I began my teaching career.

I had just finished the household chores for the night and was getting ready to go to bed, when I heard a noise in my lounge. I opened the door and to my surprise, Father Christmas himself stepped out from behind my Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out. “What are you doing?” I started to ask. The words choked up in my throat, and I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. He then answered me with a simple statement, “Teach the children!” I was puzzled; what did he mean? He guessed my question, and with one quick movement pulled a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood puzzled, Father Christmas said, “Teach the children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that now-a-days Christmas has forgotten.” Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a fir tree and placed it in front of the fire place. “Teach the children that the pure green colour of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, representing the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point towards heaven, making it a symbol of how we should turn our thoughts to heaven.” He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant star. “Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Saviour for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfilment of His promise.” He then reached into his bag and pulled out a candle. “Teach the children that the candle symbolises that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of Jesus who fills our hearts with light.” Once again he reached into his bag and removed a wreath and placed it on the tree. “Teach the children that the wreath symbolises the real nature of love. Real love never ceases, like God’s love which has no beginning or end.” He then pulled from his bag an ornament of himself. “Teach the children that I, Father Christmas symbolise the generosity and kindness we feel during the month of December.” He then brought out a gift and said, “Teach the children that God loved us so much that He gave His only Son. We thank God for his very special gift. Teach the children that the wise men bowed before the Holy Baby and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We should always give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men.” Father Christmas then reached in his bag and pulled out a candy cane and hung it on the tree. “Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. The crook on the staff helps to bring back lost sheep to the flock.” He reached in again and pulled out an angel. “Teach the children that it was the angels that announced the glorious news of the Saviour’s birth.” Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled a bell. “Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it also rings to guide us to God. It reminds us we are all precious in the eyes of God.” Father Christmas looked back and was pleased. I saw the twinkle in his eye as he said, “Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the centre, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship Him, our Lord, our God.”

Not only is the story filled with wonder and awe that totally captures the children’s imaginations, it also gives us a magical moment of quiet and reflection amidst all the brightness and glitter. My only hope is that the children remember just a little bit of it as they unwrap their presents on Christmas morning and carry in their hearts the wonderful message of the greatest story ever told.

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